Stock index futures edged higher on Thursday as investors awaited results from technology bellwether Intel Corp and a report on December U.S. retail sales, a day after the Dow index rose to a fresh 15-month high.

Intel kicks off the start of technology-sector earnings after the bell, with some analysts concerned the shares may sell off if its 2010 outlook isn't rosy enough. The chipmaker is expected to report earnings of 30 cents per share, excluding items, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Intel results this evening will be when we really begin to focus on earnings and get a handle of how the rest of the season will shape up, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York.

Intel shares rose 0.9 percent at $21.15 in premarket trading.

Due before the bell on Thursday is December's retail sales data, at 8:30 a.m. EST. The median forecast is for a monthly rise in retail sales of 0.5 percent, following November's 1.3 percent increase. For sales excluding autos, economists in a Reuters survey forecast a gain of 0.3 percent, compared with an increase of 1.2 percent in November.

Weekly jobless claims data are also due at 8:30 a.m. and November business inventories data is set for release at 10:00 a.m. EST.

I suspect retail sales numbers (for December) to be a real indicator in terms of what the consumers will be doing, going forward, since previous data may have been stronger on pre-holiday season spending, Cardillo said.

S&P 500 futures rose 1.5 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 17 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 1.75 points.

Financial shares will be in focus as U.S. President Barack Obama is due to propose that major U.S. financial companies pay a fee to protect taxpayers from up to $117 billion in losses on the banks bailout that has spurred public fury. The announcement is set for 11:50 a.m. EST.

Resource-related shares will also be in the spotlight after mining major Rio Tinto Plc beat its own forecast for iron ore output in the fourth quarter, signaling robust demand from Chinese steelmakers.

Google Inc may be active as China showed no sign of giving ground on Google's censorship claim as the U.S. Internet giant threatened to quit the country.

U.S. chocolate maker Hershey Co is still working on a bid for Cadbury Plc that would top Kraft's hostile $17 billion takeover offer, a source said.

U.S. stocks rose Wednesday as investors bet on recently weakened technology and financial shares, taking the Dow to a fresh 15-month high.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)